Big Ballers Auction – Harlem Hangover says hello to 2010

Saturday night, I took part in my first fantasy baseball auction. I bought into The Big Ballers 15 team mixed league (only for men with elephantitis of the fantasy baseball testicles of course) after responding to a post in the classified section of Fantasy Baseball Cafe. I’d been interested in participating in a fantasy baseball auction for a while and this league’s deep, NFBC style format really peaked my interest. In fact I even twirled my mustache while considering my entry to the league. Were my balls in fact big enough to take on some experienced fantasy baseballers in a very deep format for my first auction? Well of course they were, otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to write about! After a little back and forth with the commissioner to see if these characters were on the up and up, I ponied up the money and gave myself a crash course in auction strategy.

I had always heard that a fantasy baseball auction is chess while a snake draft is checkers. I found that comparison pretty accurate. You can also compare it to no-limit hold ’em, where a snakedraft is the limit game. In this auction, we’re given a budget of $260 to spend on a roster of 14 position players and nine catchers. Two catchers, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, MI, CI, five outfielders and a utility slot make up the offensive end, while I can use any number of starters or relievers to fill my nine pitching slots. In addition to these starting slots, we’re given five bench spots that we filled in a post-auction draft using the remaining players left in the pool. As you can imagine, this was a pretty long and grueling process, about six hours from start to finish. It’s pretty hard to set aside that kind of chunk of time to be completely distraction free but I did my best under the circumstances. Aside from a brief break at around the halfway point, there was no down time either, like you have between picks in a draft. You never know what player will be nominated for auction next, so you’ve got to stay glued to the computer. In fact you have to be the computer, like Kraftwerk! Even with my wife and our guest (I know, I’m a bad host) leaving me be to take care of bidnis, I was bound to miss out on a couple of guys…

Youk: The one that got away

Before the first hour has even passed, the door bell rings. The bidding starts for Kevin “Greek God of Walks” Youkilis at $18. I go $19 and run down the hall for the door. Mrs Brown’s got an armload of grocery bags filled with stuff she’ll use to cook for Easter dinner. I hear the warning buzzer sound from my laptop in the living room. I passed on A-Rod, got outbid on Wright and passed on Longoria. This is an OBP league, and I want Youk!

“Leave the stuff and come in babe, I’ll come back for it.” I bolt back to my computer.

I get back to see that Youk’s up to $30 and in seconds he’ll belong to The Burlington Twins. That’s a lot. Too much, too soon. I’ve just thrown down $38 for Mark Texiera and $29 for Zack Grienke.

“Arrrrrrgh” I cry out like Ahhnold. And Mrs. Brown is standing in the living room, bags in tow, her head cocked, giving me the stink-eye.

So let me backtrack to the little preparation, I was able to squeeze into my busy schedule (it was penciled in somewhere between learning a knuckle-curve and showing my homey, Miss C, around the outer-boros). My first move was to print out a list of player rankings, broken down by position and sorted into tiers, like I have been doing for my other leagues for the past few years, just updated to increase the numbers in the player pool, in relation to the 15 teams. I highly recommend the free ranking spreadsheets that Fantasy Gameday makes available every year. They are far more useful than any magazine you’ll find on a newstand that was written in January. With my new tier sheets, I had to go about the business of converting my snakedraft player valuations to dollar values for the auction. To find a baseline for these valuations, I plugged in the league format (we’re using OBP instead of Average) into Lastplayerpicked and used their numbers to get a rough idea of what players are worth. I then checked out results of various other NFBC style drafts, including this years Tout Wars auction results, which gave me additional valuation outliers and a look into what the some fantasy baseball heavyweights are spending their auction budget on. I was not able to procure the final standings for past Big Baller League auctions, but from past roto experience, I was confident that knew what kind of production I’d need to place in the money. So without further adou, I introduce the 2010 Harlem Hangovers…

C: Miguel Montero ($12)
C: A. J. Pierzynski ($4)
1B: Mark Texiera ($36)
2B: Robinson Cano ($24)
SS: Yunel Escobar ($12)
3B: Gordan Beckham ($17)
CI: Billy Butler ($20)
MI: Luis Castillo ($2)
OF: Carlos Lee ($17)
OF: Nelson Cruz ($20)
OF: Franklin Gutierrez ($6)
OF: Austin Jackson ($2)
OF: Cameron Maybin ($8)
UT: Aubrey Huff (DRAFT 1)
SP: Zack Grienke ($29)
SP: Tim Hudson ($8)
SP: Max Scherzer ($7)
SP: Scott Kazmir ($4)
SP: Brandon Webb ($3)
SP: Shawn Marcum ($2)
SP: Kevin Correia ($2)
RP: Heath Bell ($12)
RP: David Aardsma ($8)
BN: Bud Norris (DRAFT 5)
BN: Brandon Lyon (DRAFT 3)
BN: Angel Pagan (DRAFT 4)
BN: Akinori Iwamura (DRAFT 2)

The five bench positions (in my case four and my Utility slot) were selected in a draft that was held after the auction.

Since the auction, I traded Carlos “El Caballo” Lee, Tim Hudson and Brandon “Cowardly” Lyon for Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter and Chase Headley. Carpenter’s a money, four category contributing starter and Chase Headley gives me a guy with a pornstar name, a must for any winning fantasy baseball team.

Chris Carpenter arrives in Harlem

I started out aggressively, but set on not chasing Albert, Hanley, Tim or Mauer. Those guys went early and for big money. I wanted to go another route, to try to take money out of the other players hands by nominate guys I didn’t necessarily want, but who I knew would be desirable. Like John Lackey for example, who’s a long way from Disneyland in the big bad AL East and has a terrible lifetime record at his new home, Fenway. Of course he threw six shutout innings at home against The Yanks tonight, but I still don’t like him this year. Another guy I threw out there was Ian Kinsler. Some poor schmuck was going to buy him and shit, I’ll even help raise the price, but I won’t have the final bid there. So I went with middle tier top talent, winning reasonable bids on Tex, Cano, Butler and Cruz and then switched gears a bit and slowed down while other big names flew off of the board. I was aiming for players who were in the middle of their positional tiers, in an attempt to avoid the inflation of top tier and bottom tier guys (interesting to see how the last man on the tier tends to go at a premium price in anticipation of the productivity drop-off in the next tier). One of my goals, was to center my offense in my infield, since there are always a larger pool of good outfielders around. I think I did a good job there in spite of missing out on a top tier 3B. I’d go in for two power outfielders (but again not a Braun, Kemp or other high profile guy) and then grab some cheaper, speedy guys later. For the two dreaded catcher slots, I didn’t want to go the complete scrub route, but Mauer, V-Mart, McCann and even Weiters went for a lot more than I was comfortable spending on the fragile catcher position. Instead I went with the cheaper power upside of Miguel Montero and the steady and affordable A.J.P. Pitchers seemed to be priced at a premium and I instantly regretted throwing down all that money for Grienke, as all the second tier aces flew off of the board for a good deal more than I had projected. I was very happy to grab Heath Bell for $12, and Aardsma for $8 when Broxton was the top priced closer at $20.

As the draft wore on, I definitely felt fatigue set in. I refused to go all in on a few players which I targeted, since everyone else seemed to target them too and their prices soared. While I liked where I started, I found myself saying, “I’ll save for the next guy,” far too often and missing out as I kept digging for bargains in a diminishing player pool. This lead to a pretty balanced team, with few major holes and only a few questions as far as injury or playing time (outside of Webb and Kazmir, who both came at a big discount because of their DL status). My end game strategy, to have two dollars left for each of the last five or six slots, failed somewhere along the way however and I kicked myself when I realized I was holding a few dollars more than I had planned near the end. Hence $8 for my final pick Cameron Maybin. That money would have been better served getting a high OBP guy like Josh Willingham or Nick Swisher, who I believe went for  about the same price.

Overall, I think I did a pretty good job for a first auction with a bunch of guys who seem to know what they’re doing. In fact I was pretty surprised to see that in a poll taken on the League’s Yahoo page, my team was voted most likely to make the playoffs. I’m liking my chances even more after the Carpenter deal, in spite of the loss of Lee’s power. It’s going to be a fun challenge to switch gears back to the more patient mindset of rotisserie style fantasy baseball, as I have been playing head to head exclusively for the last three years. Win or lose, I’m happy to have gotten my feet wet in an auction and I’m looking forward to seeing how this team performs.

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